Every SEC team's most deflating play of the last decade
I’m warning you.
This isn’t gonna be easy. Not one bit. I realize that by writing a column called “every SEC team’s most deflating play of the last decade,” I’m opening up some old wounds. I imagine many of them haven’t healed.
But the good news is that this can lead you down a rabbit hole of old YouTube videos that has you pondering about a million different sliding door moments in SEC history. Well, at least it did for me.
Before we start, I should preface this by saying “most deflating” is subjective. For my money, “deflating” implies that hopes were high and the fashion in which a game was lost was devastating. Like, an unranked team losing 55-0 in early September is deflating, but is it more deflating than losing a national championship on a walk-off? Nope. Not even close.
Deflating can also be realizing a window closed. For some moments on this list, that’s exactly the case.
Again, you’ve been warned.
Alabama — The Kick-6
If this isn’t starting off with a bang, I don’t know what is. One of the most stunning moments in college football history was such because it appeared Alabama was either in “win or OT” mode when it attempted a 57-yard field goal in a tie game. And well, you know the rest. Chris Davis took a dagger to Alabama with the most famous returned field goal in college football history:
As any Alabama fan will tell you, this was peak-devastation for a variety of reasons. The 3-peat was in play, and this prevented No. 1 Alabama from even reaching the SEC Championship. This was the final year of the BCS era. Had the Playoff been intact, this wouldn’t have been nearly as devastating because the Crimson Tide would have had another shot. But all of that went out the window that day. Meanwhile, Crimson Tide fans had to watch Auburn win the SEC the following week and ultimately play for a national championship. More on that in a minute.
Arkansas — Ryan Mallett picked off late vs. Alabama in 2010
Arkansas didn’t host a whole lot of top-10 matchups in the 2010s, but in the first year of the decade, the Hogs had a prime opportunity to knock off No. 1 Alabama and put themselves in the national title conversation. Clinging to a 20-17 lead on their own 19-yard line in the final 5 minutes, Mallett dropped back to pass on 3rd-and-11. He sailed a ball to Greg Childs that Robert Lester picked off and nearly took back to the house. Mark Ingram punched in the go-ahead score and, fittingly, another Mallett interception ended Arkansas’ hopes of an upset.
How many times has Arkansas hosted a top-10 game since then? Once.
Auburn — Florida State’s game-winning touchdown pass in the final seconds of the 2013 BCS National Championship
Auburn was definitely on the right side of deflating endings more times than not, especially in 2013. Goodness was that year wild. That probably made it all the more devastating to lose the national title in the last 13 seconds. Auburn led Florida State 31-27 after Tre Mason’s 37-yard touchdown run with 79 seconds left, and all signs pointed to that being yet another Tigers miracle. That’s how close they were to a title.
Then Rashad Green caught that 49-yard pass from Jameis Winston — thanks to a botched Auburn tackle on a quick slant — and FSU was almost instantly in scoring position. Go figure that Chris Davis, AKA the Kick-6 hero, had the pass interference that bailed out FSU to set up the game-winning score to Kelvin Benjamin. It felt so atypical for Auburn after the year that was. The magic finally ran out.
Florida — Jordan Reed’s fumble in the end zone vs. Georgia in 2012
In the post-Urban Meyer era — all but 1 year of the 2010s — there weren’t a ton of seasons with legitimate national title promise. However, that 2012 year with Will Muschamp had that potential. The No. 3 Gators were a Georgia win from locking up the East as an unbeaten team in November. Down 17-9, Florida mounted a drive into the red zone in the final 2 minutes. Reed, Florida’s extremely talented tight end who had been solid that day, converted a 1st down and basically attempted to jump into the end zone from the 5-yard line. But All-American Jarvis Jones punched it loose and Georgia recovered it in the end zone.
Consider that another reason why hurdling is the ultimate high risk-low reward play. Who knows what happens if Reed just goes down. There was no guarantee the Gators would have scored a touchdown and a 2-point conversion. But that remains a massive “what if” of the Muschamp era.
Georgia — 2nd-and-26
Yep. You know how it went down:
He gave Alabama fans 2nd and 26, a national championship, but most importantly, he gave his all.
— Touchdown Alabama (@TDAlabamaMag) November 17, 2019
The thing was, Tua Tagovailoa taking the devastating sack the play before made it feel like Georgia was about to end the 1980 jokes for good. But a botched Cover-2 will go down as the most infamous play in the Dawgs’ history.
Kentucky — Florida’s uncovered receivers sink Cats in 2017
You knew that the Kentucky deflating moment had to be against the Gators. You could go with 2019 here after the missed kick late allowed Kyle Trask’s comeback to hold, but I went with 2017 for a couple of reasons. Check that. I went with 2017 for 1 reason. When you fail to even cover a receiver twice and it leads to a pair of touchdowns, how can one expect to end a 30-year losing streak? The Cats blew a 13-point lead at home to Florida in the most crushing, familiar fashion possible.
It was the type of loss that Kentucky fans went home thinking “nothing will ever change.” Well, it did a year later.
LSU — AJ McCarron’s TD pass to T.J. Yeldon in 2012
If you flipped on an LSU-Alabama marathon from the 2010s, you really wouldn’t think the rivalry was as lopsided as it was. The 2012 game was a perfect example of that. With College GameDay in the house for a night tilt vs. No. 1 Alabama, the No. 5 Tigers had Alabama right where they wanted them. LSU led 17-14 with 1:34 remaining, McCarron delivered one of the drives Alabama fans won’t soon forget. He completed 4-of-5 passes for 72 yards, including a 28-yard screen pass to Yeldon that stunned the LSU faithful. The revenge that the Tigers craved faded with their national championship hopes.
It took a whole 7 years to finally get that revenge.
Mississippi State — Dak Prescott intercepted by Landon Collins in 2014
MSU being the No. 1 team in America in mid-November (or ever) was a first. But awaiting MSU was a road showdown with big, bad Alabama, which didn’t like the whole “dynasty is dead” conversation. The Bulldogs trailed 25-13 late and Dak Prescott had them in position to make it a 1-score game in the Alabama red zone. But Collins caught a tipped pass and all but squashed MSU’s dream of a Cinderella season.
There was technically still a chance for MSU to make the first Playoff, but without control of its West title hopes, that essentially vanished in Tuscaloosa. It vanished for good in the Egg Bowl a couple of weeks later.
Mizzou — Andrew Baggett misses 24-yard field goal in 2-OT loss to South Carolina in 2013
The opportunities to win national titles at Mizzou are few and far between. When South Carolina came to Columbia in 2013, the No. 5 Tigers were very much still in the hunt to do that after taking down Georgia and Florida in the previous 2 weeks. Up 17-0 in the 4th quarter against South Carolina, the Tigers were in prime position to keep that dream alive. But 17 straight from the Gamecocks forced overtime. After matching scores in the first overtime, Mizzou held South Carolina to a field goal and needed a chip shot 24-yarder to force a 3rd overtime.
And then, college kickers happened. Joe Tessitore’s “Oh no!” on the broadcast told the story.
I suppose Mizzou’s national title dreams didn’t officially die that night. They were the No. 5 team in the country going into the SEC Championship against Auburn. A win there and who knows what the BCS computers would have spat out. But that’s an all-time way to drop a thrilling game with so much on the line.
Ole Miss — Laquon Treadwell’s injury fumble vs. Auburn in 2014
Every time I see that devastating play in 2014, I think of 3 words. So. Much. Happening.
Ole Miss, as the No. 4 team in the country after the first Playoff poll, played a thrilling “Playoff elimination” game vs. No. 3 Auburn (both had 1 loss). With a chance to stay in control of the SEC West, the Rebels appeared to take the lead thanks to a catch and run by Treadwell. But as he was being brought down by Kris Frost, Treadwell’s leg got caught and he fumbled … just before crossing the goal line. In a matter of a couple of minutes, Ole Miss fans went from going crazy thinking they had just won a massive showdown to keep Playoff hopes alive to realizing that not only were they about to lose the game, but they lost their best player to a serious injury.
The window closed in Oxford that night, and it couldn’t have closed in more deflating fashion.
South Carolina — Randall Cobb’s 24-yard score devastates Gamecocks in 2010
I could have gone in a bunch of different directions here. There was 2012 vs. LSU, 2011 vs. Auburn or 2014 vs. Mizzou. (In case you couldn’t tell, it was extremely difficult to decide.) But the 2010 Kentucky game won out because of what South Carolina did the previous game. That is, stun No. 1 Alabama. It was the “we’ve arrived” moment of the Steve Spurrier era. Shoot, Nick Saban hasn’t lost to a non-top 15 opponent since that game 10 years ago. That win moved South Carolina into the top 10 for the first time in 3 years.
That made it all the more deflating the following week when South Carolina blew a 28-10 lead with 19 minutes remaining to a Kentucky team that was 0-3 in SEC play. The back-breaker came with 1:15 remaining when South Carolina 28-23 and just needed a stop on 4th-and-7. But then Cobb was inexplicably wide open for a 24-yard score. It was another “this is why we can’t have nice things” game for South Carolina fans.
Tennessee — Feleipe Franks and Tyrie Cleveland’s walk-off Hail Mary in 2017
If you want to go with the 2016 loss to Texas A&M for this, I suppose that’s fine. But losing on a Hail Mary to your rival is a tough thing to stomach, no matter how bad the season turns out. Remember, the Vols were 2-0 and ranked heading into that Florida game before the wheels fell off. All they had to do was not let Cleveland get behind them, and instead, Franks floated a perfect ball that Florida fans won’t soon forget.
That ball went a legitimate 68 yards. Why Tennessee didn’t have several defenders on the goal line was beyond me:
Texas A&M — Johnny Manziel sacked to end 2013 game vs. Auburn
That sound you heard was the Aggies’ window closing. In Auburn’s magical run that year, I feel like this was the forgotten game. People forget that No. 7 A&M, in the final year with Manziel, still had legitimate national title hopes in mid-October (they had the 1 loss to Alabama). On the ropes after Tre Mason’s 5-yard touchdown gave Auburn a 45-41 lead with 1:19 to play, Manziel actually got the Aggies into the red zone with a legitimate chance to win. Watch that game again and you’ll be convinced Manziel is about to have a heroic late-game moment.
Had Mike Evans come down with a bobbled ball in the end zone, perhaps we’re having a different conversation about Manziel’s college legacy. Had officials correctly called a horse-collar tackle when Kris Frost brought down a scrambling Manziel, perhaps A&M would have ended Auburn’s magical run before it began. Instead, neither happened and Manziel was sacked on 4th down to end the game.
A 2nd division loss all but eliminated the Aggies from national title contention in the final year with Manziel and Evans. Window closed.
Vanderbilt — Damien Harris runs for 61-yard TD in 2017 Alabama game
Remember how I said September blowout losses aren’t deflating? Here’s the exception to the rule. The infamous “Alabama, you’re next” quote came on the heels of the Commodores taking down No. 18 Kansas State to improve to 3-0 with the Crimson Tide set to invade Nashville.
And invade they did.
I picked that specific play because that was the “oh, we’re not even in that galaxy” moment for Vanderbilt fans. Harris’ run made it 14-0 in the middle of the 1st quarter, and frankly, that was essentially the dagger. A 59-0 bloodbath ensued, which wasn’t ideal for Vanderbilt’s rare crowd of 40,000-plus (the 2019 opener vs. Georgia is the only time Commodore Stadium reached that mark since that day).
Alabama was next, as predicted. That is, the next school to remind Vanderbilt that it wasn’t in the same universe as college football’s elite.